Sunday, January 11, 2009

Q: What’s the easiest way to be a good employer in bad times?

A: Work with your employees

Somebody I know was laid off on Friday. After two half years of giving it all to a gig as a Web Master for an online publication, he was shown the door. Putting the sadness and stress of the situation aside, it was probably a short sighted move on the part of the employer. Maybe the former employer has a plan in place to mitigate the risk incurred. But, a web site without a web master is like a truck without a truck driver. You really can’t let the machine run uncontrolled.

Way back in 1998 when I worked for the Big Ass Computer Manufacturer, it was layoff time. The company had its first losing quarter ever. So, they did the usual: setup HR counseling, setup a re-employment office with desktops and fax machines, and start the layoffs.

I was friendly with a Big Ass VP. He told me that he had just gotten an email from an employee of 10 years that had been laid off. The laid off worker asked one question: “How could you do this to me?” The VP was shaken. The laid off worker was a friend of his.

When business goes south, changes need to be made, no doubt. Businesses cannot run at a loss forever. But there are typical ways to address bad times, and there are extraordinary ways to address bad times.

I wonder what would have happened at my web master friend’s employer or at the Big Ass Computer Company if the supervisor gathered all the troops together and said, “Business is such that we don’t have enough resources to support our current payroll. Our business is based on treating our customers and our employees as partners. We want to work with you. So I’ve been instructed to ask you, what can we do to solve this problem?”

Maybe somebody will say, “Gee, I can work part time for a few months.”

Maybe somebody else will come up with an idea to increase sales or trim expenses.

Maybe somebody will say, “Hey, Jane doesn’t do jack shit around here. Get rid of her!”

Who knows what other ideas will transpire? Maybe none. But at least all parties will have made the effort to look out for one another.

There is a big difference between having something done to you and having something done with you. It's the difference between a shove and a dance. Shoving creates resentment and retaliation. Dancing makes friends, even after the dance is over.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick said...

The basic issue with the "work with you" is that in a layoff situation, the employer is scared shitless that their best employees are going to leave sensing instability in the company. So, they do the "we're okay" dance, but say they have to make some surgical cuts.

Not honestly, but more self preservation.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Oz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Oz said...

I know people first hand that saw cuts coming and worked out a plan so all in the group agreed worked a 4 day week instead of layoffs. Being a union shop the company had to keep their end of the bargain also.
The pain was shared by all rather than last on first off.
So solutions can be made, but it just seems the US is hell bent on pruning an orchid with a chainsaw.

A solution is asking how did we get too heavy not how do we lose weight. Understanding how corp's get too fat is best solution to help trim down and it will have the desired effect. The crash diet is short term and as soon as the food "money" is back so will the pounds.

12:05 AM  

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